Today: a full day. Beginning with an audition (which I love) and concluding in dinner with a dear friend I’ve been looking forward to catching up with. And then last night: way too little sleep. This morning? I wake up tired with an eye swollen three-quarters shut with an infection. Drat. Cancel audition, cancel dinner. Not really what I wanted on this gorgeous, gorgeous day.
I drag myself out of bed and log onto FB, immediately happening upon this blog post by Kate Northrup. If you don’t have time to read it, the gist is that life often doesn’t go the way we want or expect it to, but that’s ok, because it actually turns out better than we could have planned. Here’s the last line:
IT WILL BE BETTER.
Walking my dogs, I sensed a post welling up, and so here we are, smack in the middle of THIS topic: “Not Getting What We Want.” Click to tweet indeed…
Here’s the deal: we think we experience identities (or egos, i.e., misunderstandings of the ego by the ego, more to follow), which allow us to function in the world. They take care of the minutia: they keep us alive, figure out the bus schedule and make shopping lists. Gratitude for this. And… they want things. We want things. We pray for rain, for health, we hope for a promotion, a bigger salary, good weather for the wedding, for the vacation. We hope he likes us, that the flu passes quickly, that the car accident isn’t fatal and that people care more for the environment. As human beings, we agree, we disagree, we plan, we prepare, we hope and we pray. And we don’t always get what we want. In the end, my loves, as Pema Chödrön would say, everything falls apart.
But is not getting what we want, and getting something else instead, as Kate purports, really better?? We can certainly perceive it that way.
Spoiler alert: there IS no better. Hold on, stick with me a sec here.
Our identities, our egos, can look back at events and weave happy stories (or sad) around them: thank goodness Ted didn’t ask me to marry him, because I’m so much happier with Laura! If I hadn’t had that car accident, I never would have gotten this new car, which I’m really enjoying. Good thing I got this eye infection, I really needed a day to rest!
But I’m not talking here about this quote by the Dalai Lama, “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” That’s certainly true, in some circumstances. In circumstances (you’ll see what I mean in a moment). And great. Sure. We find silver linings. We look on the bright side, find the upside. And it’s not that those perspectives are right or wrong, but just like a victim-stance or finding the downside in circumstances; it’s that those made-up judgements about the meaning of an event are ultimately and profoundly meaningless. However, don’t underestimate the power we give them. We often unwittingly bestow upon our own judgements the power to determine the quality of our lives by believing those judgements are true and resisting what we don’t want.
NOTE: It is possible to experience preferences through emotions and thoughts without believing they are true and without resisting their opposites. Preferences are just preferences, and emotions and thoughts are just emotions and thoughts, they come and go, largely unbidden. We can acknowledge and experience them without resistance and without believing they are ultimately meaningful.
Here’s the thing: Life guarantees that you will eventually hit upon a circumstance in which your identity will find it extremely challenging not to glance at Kate’s last sentence there out of the corner of your eyes and snort. You will suddenly find yourself strongly uninclined to “Click to Tweet.” It might be when your child passes away after a grueling year of cancer treatment. When the dancer’s leg is sliced off in a freak prop accident. When the pregnant mother and her unborn child are killed in a texting car crash. Enough. You see what I mean. We can stretch that silver lining for all it’s worth and murmur, “well, now so many more will be more careful driving” etc., etc. But eventually, it ends. We die. Ultimately, we don’t get what we and every other living form wants above all else, which is to continue to exist.
In the end, my loves, as Pema Chödrön would say, everything falls apart.
But this is the very rip in the silver lining that takes us back to our hearts, to who we really are, and to the truth: only the identity, only the ego, cares anything for circumstances. And the identity doesn’t exist. Let’s step outside of the circumstances for a moment.
Who we really are is loving presence, in and through whatever circumstances appear in our time in these bodies. Presence for the broken heart, the celebration, the victory, the birth, the death. Presence in anger, in fear, in grief and in joy. Who we really are knows the circumstances are only a beautiful dream, or an ugly nightmare. Waking up is remembering that all of it is love and that nothing but illusion can ever fall apart. It’s not that we’re not also the identity—sure we are, but it’s just a temporary layer of existence, an illusion, a misunderstanding. This is the finger pointing at the moon and not the moon. In other words, there is no explaining this in words. But to try–
NOTE 2: The ego is not a separate part of ourselves, it’s simply our misperception of it’s function and paradoxically, our belief that it exists at all that allows for the interpretation that we’ve missed the point. This is the last post in which you will hear me refer to the ego as something that actually exists. There is no ego, and to refer to and even vilify something that doesn’t exist, while quite an American thing to do, is not something I care to engage in anymore. There will be no more of this type of statement: make friends with the ego, ignore the ego, go underneath the ego or above or dissolve it. There is no ego. Riddle me that. Get to know who you are and that’s all there is.
In any case…for the purposes of this post…
Better is the vocabulary of the ego, of the identity, the temporary part of ourselves. Only the identity is the great comparer, the judger. Eckhart Tolle tells a story in A New Earth that illustrates this beautifully. (Click here for short video of that story). He goes on to state,
The primordial relationship with your life is with whatever form the Now takes…it is at this moment that you can decide what type of relationship you want to have with the present moment…do I want the present moment to be my enemy or my friend?
It’s not that we shed our preferences, it’s that we begin to see through them. The foundation of our relationship with them changes. We don’t completely stop hoping and wishing and praying for what we want; we stop believing that when we hope, wish and pray for what we want, that our preferences have any meaning. Sometimes we get what we want, and sometimes we don’t. But regardless, the present moment can be our friend rather than our enemy. We can simply experience what’s there. We don’t have to call it “good” or “bad.” We can live in ultimate gratitude through awareness of our true selves, or through the illusion of identity. And in the end, both everything and nothing falls apart. The question is, how will you experience your circumstances and thus, your life? In angst and confusion, or in peace? LiveLove&BU
I highly recommend these three authors for delving deeper:
Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth and The Power of Now
Byron Katie’s Loving What Is
Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart
Image credit: the spiritscience.net